Ryan Ahmed was just 15 and a student at the Bronx High School of Science when his father, Mora Ahmed, suffered a brain aneurysm that forced the youngster to take on odd jobs to help the family.
But his father’s illness led Ahmed to pursue an interest in the sciences, and he and other Bronx Science students, in 2022, started a company called Niura which has developed electrode-technology earbuds that monitor brain activity and, potentially, save lives through early detection of brain disorders, such as aneurysms.
Niura, with offices at the New York Institute of Technology in Old Westbury and in Manhattan, is one of eight Long Island startups that have been approved for funding. The funding comes through Empire State Development, the state’s primary business aid agency, to help pay the costs of such professional services as legal, accounting, human resources and marketing.
About Accelerate Long Island
Accelerate Long Island, a nonprofit organization of academics and businesses that helps startups, has $130,000 to award through the state’s Innovation Hot Spot program this year. Aside from the eight startups already approved for funding, another five are pending approval.
Accelerate Long Island will reimburse newly created businesses for one-third of the cost of the professional services. Other costs must be paid by the startups, through fund-raising, contributions or other means.
The money is available through a $1.25 million, five-year grant from ESD.
Long Island, for decades known as home to giant aerospace companies such as Grumman Corporation and Fairchild Republic Company, is desperately attempting to grow a startup community in technology, biotech and the life sciences, said Michael Nizich, director of NYIT’s Entrepreneurship and Technology Innovation Center, which acts as an incubator for growing companies including Niura.
Nizich said the path to success for startups is extremely difficult, and many do not make it for lack of funding. He said there are currently about 250 to 300 such companies on Long Island.
“There’s an interest in this on Long Island,” Nizich said. “There’s a hunger for it.”
“Nothing is more daunting than taking an idea and turning it into a business, and these designations, and the funding that follows, demonstrate our continued commitment to supporting budding companies with the support they need to be successful in New York State,” Hope Knight, ESD’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.
In an interview, Ahmed, now 19, said that, “My dad was a hotel waiter” in Queens, where the family lived. After suffering the aneurysm, he was unable to work full time. Ahmed said he had to pick up the slack to help out the family. His father, he said, has been recovering, but moves more slowly than he did before his illness.
Ahmed and some fellow Bronx High Science students in 2017 began a nonprofit that helped council members in Philadelphia and other cities with research so they could better prepare legislation.
Then in 2022, the same group started Niura, said Ahmed, one of the company’s founders and its chief technology officer. Ahmed said that he and others in the group, during discussions over long lunches and dinners, realized that a lack of early detection would make it hard for people like his father to prepare for undetected neurological threats.
The company has designed earbuds, which look like the kind of devices people wear to hear music. The earbuds consist of a chip that encompasses an electroencephalogram reader, audio data, and data processing parts.
The product, Ahmed said, has yet to be launched, but the state funding will be a help in bringing the earbuds to market.
“The point of our device is to check for warning signs,” Ahmed said. “Our job is to make this available to regular people to detect brain abnormalities.”
Other Businesses Accelerate LI Has Helped
Arielle Gabalski, 26, of Mineola, who is completing her Ph.D. in molecular medicine at the Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell, told the Press she has also started a company, CMS BioTechnologies, which has also been approved for funding.
Gabalski said in an interview that the company is developing a device that will help reduce the side effects of medications.
She said that she and four other medical students are working on building the company independently of their studies. They are currently renting space for their project at the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park, on the campus of Farmingdale State College. Gabalski said that she is very excited to be doing this.
“We’re still looking into our target market,” she said. “But I have a phenomenal team,” she said. “Everyone is brilliant.”
Stacey Sikes, board chair of Accelerate Long Island and vice president of government affairs and communications for the Long Island Association, said that Accelerate was formed in 2011 “and has been instrumental in supporting startups on Long Island.”
Startups can still apply by going to accelerateli.org and clicking on hot spots.